Grant “Twiggy” Baker a former champion at Maverick’s, a regular invitee for The Eddie and a multiple Billabong XXL Awards winner who has worked for and been sponsored by Billabong for 20 years, was recently fired by his former sponsor.
“Yup, you got that right. No one likes to be fired. It means that you haven’t been doing your job and that you don’t deserve the salary you’ve been getting. It’s a terrible thing. It’s made me take a long, hard look at myself,” said Twiggy. “Quite simply, I didn’t win any major events this past year. I needed to win a Mavericks event, or The Eddie, or a XXL or something, and I didn’t.”
A combination of a decrease in sales in the South African market where he is based and a lack of winning any contests or awards this past season is why he was dropped by the company.
“The thing is, the South African market is such a small part of the global market, and sales have dwindled in South Africa, and I guess I’m just a part of the downturn. People who don’t do anything tangible for the company, like surfers, are going to get shaved in a bid to streamline. In times of financial stress companies shave down to maximise profits. It’s the nature of corporate business,” said Twiggy, who then answered whether style is a factor for big wave surfers. “You’re wrong. It’s all about results. If I wanted to stay a sponsored surfer I should have been getting the good results. If you have the good results then you deserve to stay. I didn’t win and I can accept that. I do feel that this system should go further though, and if you’re working at a top company like Billabong, and you’re not performing well, not making your targets, then your job should also be under scrutiny. Everyone has to look at themselves, as I’m trying to do.”
There’s still plenty of great things that Twiggy has going for him, including ownership of a rock and roll bar and having a playmate for a fiancé. And he’s ready to win again.
“I’m totally hungry. I have decided to go the next six months without a sponsor, to alleviate the pressure. I want to be able to concentrate purely on being ready for the contests and not have to worry about promoting a brand or myself. I want to focus on the events, and spend time surfing and hanging at the spots where the events are going to be. I want to be fit, and mentally prepared,” said Twiggy. “I’m pretty good at big wave contests. I have a formula for these events and I stick to it. I’m quietly confident I can win one and then the whole sponsorship thing won’t matter, because first prize now is way more then my yearly salary was anyway.”